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This is a guest post by Eric Rosenberg about credit card rewards and how valuable they are to his travel dreams. He is a full-time freelancer and blogger at Personal Profitability. Eric writes about personal finance and entrepreneurship at InvestmentZen, his own blog, and other sites around the web.
I’ll never forget how I came across the world of travel hacking. Sometime around 2010, I came across Chris Guillebeau and The Art of Non-Conformity. Chris was on a quest to visit every country in the world and was using travel hacking, including credit card rewards, to make it affordable. The more I read, the more I realized I was missing out on this huge opportunity. I was hooked.
Credit Card Rewards Made the World Accessible
As a financially conservative guy, I was not excited about the idea of signing up for new credit cards. I started travel hacking by dipping my toe in the water. Surveys and deals to pick up 500 miles here and 1,000 miles there, but never got the full grasp of the power of credit card rewards until I saw a deal to get tens of thousands of miles from the British Airways. I signed up, met the spend requirements, and instantly had well over 50,000 miles (this was before they were called Avios) in my account.
Now, I was ready to go on a big trip, and booked a visit to London, Paris, and Amsterdam for the coming fall. Tricks like open jaw and stopovers were used to book my flights as one round-trip. I flew from Denver to London, had five days in London as a stopover, flew to Paris, took a train to Amsterdam, and flew home from Amsterdam via Denver.
Factoring in British Airways’ fuel surcharges and taxes, all I paid was about $400 out of pocket for the flights. It was such a bargain compared to my friend, who paid well over $1,000 for her ticket. After realizing such massive savings, I just wanted to figure out where I could go next!
They Improved Relationships with Family & Friends
When I got home, I signed up for more cards. The next card granted another 50,000 points. I used a handful of these points to go meet my future in-laws with a non-stop flight from Denver to Santa Barbara that cost me less than a Hamilton (his face is on the $10 bill).
My balance continued to grow, and with other cards that I got with my travel hacking skills, I eventually reached a point where I could go nearly anywhere in the world for free and take a companion along with me. It was around that time I found out my cousin in Israel was getting married the next spring.
Thanks to my points and miles, and a visit from my buddy Jason, I was able to book us a trip to Israel for about $150 each out of pocket. We flew DEN-JFK on United, JFK-FRA on a Singapore Air A380, and FRA-TLV on Lufthansa. Our return was less glamorous. We used American Airlines miles to fly TLV-TXL and TXL-ORD on Air Berlin, then back to Denver on American.
Without miles and points, I probably wouldn’t have spent $3,000-$5,000 to fly to Israel for the wedding. But at $300, how could I miss a family event? It was a great trip! And I’m so glad I could be there to support my cousin on his big day.
Credit Card Rewards Keep Family Travel Affordable
Living on the West Coast, getting back to Denver to visit my parents, family, and friends is a big priority. Even with good deals, round-trip flights for two from Burbank, LAX, or Santa Barbara to Denver add up to a big expense quickly. But thanks to Southwest, it hasn’t been a big deal.
We recently moved from Portland down to Ventura, California. From both locations, we were able to use a Southwest Companion Pass and miles and points to fly to Denver for $11.20 each. With our baby still qualifying as a lap child, we can take regular trips to visit family in Denver, Kansas City, Minneapolis, and Florida without batting an eye or worrying about our budget.
They Keep My Mind Sharp
Staying on top of managing my many credit cards requires quite a bit of attention to detail. I have about 15 open at any given time. I have to track dates, spending requirements, and annual fees. Then do the math to find the best use of miles and points to get the best value so I can travel as much as possible.
It’s not that I don’t have anything else to keep my mind busy. As a self-employed freelance writer and online entrepreneur, and a father and husband, I’m a busy guy. But I make time to figure out the best ways to earn miles and points to keep us in the air, on the road, and wherever our travels may take us.
Credit Card Rewards Make Almost Anything Possible
Thanks to my miles and points, I can go nearly anywhere in the world. I can get there for free, or very close to it. When I get there, I can stay for free or very cheap. How amazing is that? And it’s all thanks to miles and points.
If you are totally new to travel hacking, check out my complete beginner’s guide. Or, just stick around here at Bald Thoughts and Boarding Area for a plethora of tips and tricks. Even us experienced travel hackers need help once in a while. Lee is one of just a couple of people on my list that I reach out to for guidance when looking to use my points for my next big trip.
With travel hacking and credit card miles and points, anything is possible. Where are you headed next?
The Bald Thoughts
Thanks to Eric for sharing how miles and points have made such a positive impact on his life. I couldn’t agree more. Without miles and points, I wouldn’t take most of the trips that I take now. I love how I can explore the world and teach my children about the world’s fascinating history and culture firsthand, rather than resorting to books and the Internet.
If you have a travel story you’d like to share, please drop me a line at our Share Your Story page.